The Geary County Commission held a brief special meeting Friday afternoon to wrap up matters concerning SPARK funds.
The more than $6 million in COVID-19 relief monies the community received have been spent in their entirety, meaning no funds will be bounced back to the state.
According to Brad Scholz, some of the funds had to be switched around to help pay for the 800 megahertz radio system which the county made plans earlier this year to put in place using SPARK funds.
“The city, from payroll, got SPARK money to pay for their tangible items,” Scholz said. “We decided to do the same thing with the 800 system. And that way we didn’t have to worry about the deadline of the 800 system being operational.”
Items paid for by SPARK funds were expected to be in place and operational by a Dec. 31 deadline. While county officials indicated at a previous meeting that they believed that they could get an extension of that deadline with documents from the manufacturer, the county chose instead to play it safe and shift the funds around.
In other words, the county is taking the money that was saved by having its first responders’ payroll reimbursed by SPARK funds and putting that toward the radio system, a total of about $2.6 million.
“We’re reimbursed with SPARK monies to pay for our payroll,” Scholz said. “They paid for our payroll. So yeah, it’s county monies that (are) going to be used for the 800 system, but technically it’s SPARK money from the employees."
The county’s SPARK funds that had been originally intended for the radio system were moved to SPARK-eligible payroll costs — such as payroll for Geary County first responders — and funds originally intended for these individuals’ payrolls went to cover some costs from the installation of the radio system.
The county had initially been told the 800 radio system would be fully operational by the Dec. 31 deadline only to find out “at the last minute” that this was incorrect, Scholz said.
The city, as Scholz indicated, also had its first responders’ salaries covered by SPARK money.
Scholz and City Manager Allen Dinkel both believe it will make the paperwork easier when it eventually comes time for an audit of the SPARK funds the community received, possibly many years from now.
“Not everybody’s going to be here five years from now and those of us who will be here five years from now may not remember what we did that day,” Dinkel said. "Salaries were nice and clean. They can prove them right now.”
“They already paid out in salaries what they got reimbursed in salaries,” Scholz said. “They money they got reimbursed, well that money has already been spent on salaries on the front end, so they’ll use that for those tangible items or projects that they want. So we’re going to do the same thing with regards to the 800 system."